Tuesday, 8 December 2015


Well, at least the bottom blurb is right

According to the Free Dictionary, the definition of 'thriving' is
"To grow vigorously;  flourish" and "To be successful or make steady
progress;  prosper".  Most of the meager group of detractors who take
issue with my views on British comics have conceded that sales of comics
have been declining for years and continue to do so.  They may disagree
that the alleged 'industry' is dead, but they usually admit the long, slow,
steady decline.  Except when they're trying to 'talk it up' of course.
Then they use words like 'thriving', 'healthy', etc., in their rabid
desire to put a rosy glow on things.

Incontrovertible point of logic:  If sales and circulation are in
decline, then they can't be thriving or prospering - that's just a plain
and simple fact.  On that basis alone, I win the argument.  It's over.  Case
proved, case closed, and no amount of intellectual (I use the word in an
ironic sense) gymnastics on their part, no amount of distortion, obfuscat-
ion, or wishful thinking can alter the facts.  There's really no need for me
to go on, I'm right, they're wrong, and that's just how it is.  That's
simply the way the cookie crumbles.

That won't stop me beating the subject to death 'though, as is
my wont.  When people ascribe motivations of their own invention
to my comments on comics as if they have some kind of exclusive in-
sight into the workings of my mind, when they casually accuse me of
bitterness, envy, and frustration at 'not being allowed' to work in U.K.
comics today, then they're playing with fire.  Let's now get one thing
straight:  The reason I no longer work in comics (specifically)
is down, mainly, to two things.

Firstly, the world of British comics today is a vastly different
entity to what it was in 'my day', not only in its set up, but also in
its size.  Secondly, I no longer get any enjoyment or satisfaction from
working in the field (so work indoors then - chortle) and would find it a
chore.  I've been offered a few opportunities to return to the biz over the
years and not pursued (or declined) them.  That's not something my tiny
band of determined detractors can accept 'though, preferring instead
to smear me with their false accusations as to my inactivity in
the medium in which I had a 15 year career.  

Having dealt with that, I'll soon be addressing each and every
point of the provocative post I mentioned last time.  I'll have to do it
in instalments, because the effrontery of its dubious claims is simply
too enormous to confront in one go.  I'll demolish each and every false
assumption and accusation one by one, and demonstrate beyond any
doubt why that particular individual is not only wrong, but disin-
genuous in the way he presents his case.

 See you then - it's a date. 


Andrew May said...

I suspect that business owners use the word "thriving" to mean "making a good profit", not "selling to a huge market". I know very little about the comics industry, but I get the feeling it worked with very small profit margins back in the "heyday" of the 1960s, when virtually every child in the country read comics on a regular basis. But in those days the cheapest comics were only 3d - just a third the price of a Mars Bar at 9d (that's not from memory - I Googled it).

Today a Mars Bar is approx 80p (Google again), but can you buy a comic for a third of that? Of course not - more like three times as much. So they're making more money from selling fewer comics - hence "thriving" by their definition.

Kid said...

I suspect that small business may define the word that way, Andrew, but if a big business makes 30 million profit one year and 'only' 29 million the next, they start pressing the panic button.

Also, the higher cost of producing a comic nowadays, compared to in the '60s, must be taken into account. I'm not sure they're making MORE money by selling fewer comics, probably just enough to make it worthwhile to continue the endeavour. Surviving rather than thriving I'd say.

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

I totally understand that you (and others) may have an issue with comments that may ( or may not) have been attributed to yourselves in that blog. However taking that element out of his article (which I know you will more than aptly address) I do think that lad made some good points (as did Andrew on your page) I also agree there were some contradictions in it and he got a bit too much into making a point about the people he disagrees with (fair enough it is his blog) rather than directly addressing the actual ( more balanced insightful) comments he had issues with. As his article went on I think he got too involved in addressing the more insane comments he was against (and I’m pretty sure there were some genuinely mad comment he was having a go at) but I think it was written with the best of intentions.

I genuinely see both sides on this one (on the state of the “industry” not on “who said what”) – certainly there are lots of comics out there every month including the Marvel/DC reprints, Beano, Commando, Phoenix , pre-packaged books, and direct sales stuff, However you are right the sales are very low compared to the 50 – 80s and that is a major concern that those saying “it’s all going great” need to take account. In saying that I also think full credit needs to be given to the comic “industry” as it has had to adapt at a quicker rate than at any time in its history to the changing world with PCs, falling birth rates (compared to the 60 – 70s), and other interest taking kids attention/money. So perhaps numerous lower circulation titles is not a bad option but it is certainly not a sustainable long term business plan.

Anyway, despite going on and one above I just wanted to make a point about perspective – If I went into any W H Smiths as 13 year old I would have to say that to me the UK comic Industry is not only vibrant it is going through a golden age with all the wonderful full colour Panini Marvel and Titan DC collections, the number of magazines that reflect comics (SFX, Film etc), graphic novels, specials on sale, comic character models / toys etc (not to mention the numerous conventions, great comic blogs, small press, indy, direct sales and on line comics etc out there). That’s because I have little interest in new children’s comics (Beano etc) and maybe if you look a bit closer at it all and are honest its maybe not as rosy (or as bad)as it first appears.

Kid said...

What I find interesting, McS, is that he repeats the same accusations that 'I've Got A Small 'Un' made a while back, and I think it's very telling that his digs mirror what that particular individual said. However, you're right that when it comes to his opinion of what constitutes a comic, he's entitled to express it, but I feel that he was only raising the issue more to have a go at the 'critics' than to deal with the actual issue itself; a case of cart before the horse as it were.

There are certainly a lot of periodicals aimed at children in WHS and various supermarkets. Are they comics 'though, in the way we understand the word? Just calling something a 'comic' doesn't make it one, although if it's called it often enough and for long enough, that will be how a new generation perceives it, true enough. In my view, however, the majority of such periodicals are more akin to puzzle and activity mags, with a bit of comic strip content in them. A newspaper with a comic page or two is still only a newspaper, not a comic, despite any strips it contains, and I think a similar distinction must be made in regard to the aforementioned periodicals.

As far as the Panini and Titan mags go, I see them more as comic mags (or comic books, as the Yanks would call them) and I think there's a subtle difference between them (they are in the American format after all) and the traditional British concept of a comic. Both formats can legitimately be described as comics, certainly, as they're both members of the same 'family', but I still see a slight distinction. Superman is a comic sure enough, but it's something more than that at the same time - it's a comic mag, whereas The Beano is pure and simply just a comic. Neither is of a higher artistic value than the other, but I think the distinction in formats should be recognized. Also, the Panini and Titan mags being, in the main, reprints, no artists or writers, etc., derive any paid income from them. Sure, editors and designers may do, but I feel that a comics 'industry' should do more than give what are essentially 'office boys' gainful employment.

Comics once had a 'Golden Age' in terms of sales and circulation, McScotty, and anything so humongously less than that (as is now the case) is not a good thing in my view. Perhaps it's better than no 'comics' (or what passes as comics these days) at all, but it's hardly an ideal situation.

However, as ever, McS, you have expressed your position (which, I trust my critics will note, is not in complete accord with my own) in an intelligent, thoughtful, considered way, and added something worthwhile to the discussion. It's a shame that the fella you're so generously (and undeservedly, to my way of thinking) trying not to see the bad side of couldn't have taken a leaf out of your book to begin with.

Piffle Puncturer said...

"Thriving"? What absolute ball cocks. If comics were "thriving" where are the publishers putting out new ones? When was the last new real traditional comic? It's been so long I have no memory of it! Was it Hoot?

Kid said...

I publish your comment in the full knowledge that I'll be accused of writing it myself. Such is life. I'm afraid 'traditional' seem to be a dirty word in some people's minds these days when it comes to comics. Can't remember when the last one appeared, although I suppose The Phoenix aspires to fit that description. It may even do so, but unfortunately it's not much cop.

Anonymous said...

Your full of it.

Kid said...

H'mm, concise and to the point. Also spelt wrong. So much for an intellectual discussion then. (Of course, he could mean I'm full of wit and wisdom - a statement with which I'd be in full accord - but somehow I doubt it.)

DeadSpiderEye said...

In my local branch of Smiths, there's an entire two metre shelf unit stacked, from top to bottom, with periodicals marketed for kids of all ages. That unit stays more or less, at the same level of stock the entire week and if you found all the comics amongst them ie. graphical narrative books, you'd fit all of 'em easily into a single carrier bag. Now back in the days when they used to actually sell comics, they'd get the delivery on the Monday and put them out that day and they'd be gone by the publication date. That's the reality I see, albeit from my limited perspective. So who's thriving, well someone is but take a long look at the publications represented on those shelves, what do most of 'em have in common and why does it seem, that stock can be replenished every week with such a small proportion of it going out the door?

The majority of those periodicals, somewhere about 60-70% tie into some other venture, be it a tv series, film franchise or maybe some other product aimed at children. What does that mean? well it means that the cost of producing 'em is sourced from a budget independent from sales. Now have a look at what's inside one of those publications, what proportion of production cost do think the editorial budget was? If it's above 2% I think that would be an exception, my estimation would be below 1% for most of the periodicals on display in Smiths. So who's thriving again? well it ain't the comic artists, it ain't the writers either, it ain't even the editors or blooming proofreaders, a few graphic artists might make enough to afford fish with their chips once a week.

So what's happening, how do the economics of this balance out? I'll be honest here, I'm not sure but I have my suspicions and they concern the way budgets are sourced. let's just say that the upshot is that a certain level of dumping may be going on. Now that's not to say there are no comics being published or that publishers with interest in the medium are not trying to promote them but what it does illustrate, is the context those efforts are taking place in. What does slightly annoy me, is when I see people pointing to the mountain of detritus on offer, then claim the comic industry is thriving, do you see the irony there?

Perhaps that's the way it's going to be from now on and maybe there is room creative endeavour within this new paradigm but they ain't comics, not as it currently stands anyway.

Kid said...

Remember also, DSE, that a lot of those periodicals are fortnightly or monthly, and therefore sit on the shelves for longer. The reason the shelves are so well stocked half the time is because the titles don't sell as fast as the publishers would wish. It's the same stock you're seeing from one month to the next in a lot of cases. In my local WHS, there's usually a fair stock of Panini/Marvel titles, but I've been in the shop a day or so before the next issues are due in, and most of the previous month's are still there.

It seems that some people are prepared to regard anything aimed at kids with a drawing in it as a comic, but I'm afraid it needs more than that to fit my idea of one.

Nicely observed comment, DSE.

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